TOMMY SHANE regrets that the writing wasn’t as good as the acting in this sketch show.
Matilda Wnek and Rosa Robson’s opening meta-sketch was quite a risk: as they acknowledged themselves, it could have ‘sucked all the humour out of the following hour’.
Luckily for everyone, it didn’t. Their explanation of the formula of sketches, what makes them funny and how blatant their pattern is, actually served to be a source of humour itself, contrary to the dictum that a joke is like a frog: if you dissect it, you kill it.
Instead, this post-modern-post-ironic sketch was a clever and disarming opening to what threatened to be an intense hour of just two people on a stage looking for laughs.
At its best, Beard was characterised by instant character establishment, creative use of the pianist and musical accompaniment, and unceasing pace. Wnek especially was excellent at maintaining an intense energy from the first to the last minute, without ever taking it overboard.
But at its worst, Beard tried to be too clever, meaning that the writing didn’t do justice to Robson and Wnek’s palpable talent.
The extra irony of the opening sketch was that Wnek and Robson actually hid their real formula for sketches. The one they all too often relied upon was leading the audience into making a false assumption, and then wittily proving it wrong. But often this simply wasn’t necessary.
A good example was when Wnek mimed walking down two floors of a revolving staircase – something that was, in and of itself, hilarious. But then we were told that actually she wasn’t going down a staircase, but was in fact doing calf stretches – and had a withered arm. Having to subsequently maintain this withered arm for the duration of the sketch stretched the joke too far. The simple physical comedy (that Wnek obviously underrated in herself) sadly did have the humour sucked out of it.
Often Cambridge sketch shows misunderstand this about their audiences: sometimes it’s the stupid laughs that are the funniest. This was also true of Perfect Strangers, where Potts’ ridiculous Monopoly Man was far funnier than any of the ingenious time-travelling.
When Wnek and Robson veered away from this formula, they were at their funniest. A sketch about role player games that included a character called ‘Areola Warrior-Breast’ was ridiculous, surreal, and so so funny. It didn’t rely upon misleading the audience, but instead mocked the habits of game makers and players alike, a clever observation of something we all willingly ignore.
Just as was their sketch in which they played spanish actors silently miming as English dubbing was played. Miss-timed sounds and clearly incorrect translations ensued, and so did the laughs.
Robson and Wnek are clearly talented, something every audience member was abundantly aware of. Robson’s timing was pitch perfect, and Wnek’s freshness meant that there wasn’t a single tiresome moment.
But at times the writing let them down as performers with flat jokes and an overkill of twists and confusions, meaning many spent the evening smiling rather than laughing. That said, an evening of smiles and occasional laughter isn’t so bad for an night out.